O Brave New World and Katagami today…

O Brave New World was an invited symposium developed by Stu Kestenbaum at Haystack School of Craft which took place in the fall of 2009. I was lucky enough to go to the symposium at the school in Maine and to participate in discussions, joining in with Piper Shepherd’s workshop and travelling with my good friend and colleague Paul Harper.

I was reminded of this wonderful few days spent there this week, as we currently have a 3 day workshop taking place at Middlesex University led by Sarah Desmarais on Katagami (Japanese stencil making).  MODA (Museum of Domestic Architecture) at Middlesex University are currently hosting four design residencies focussed on their Katagami Collection, Sarah is one of these designers. This week she is working with a mixture of BA and MA students looking at traditional stencil making and indigo dying techniques whilst working through how participants may write about the process.

IMG_1023Katagami stencil from Silver Studio (MODA, MDX University, (Image Helen Carnac)

Thinking back to Haystack and O Brave New World it was a brilliant few days and such a rare opportunity to share profound ideas about making and time in and around the beautiful environment and workshops there. At the time we were just about to launch the exhibition Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution in the UK, which I had curated, and my mind was pretty focussed on all that encompassed, but to spend time in such an idyllic place with some amazing people and to make together really expanded my thinking at the time.

Here’s a little bit about the symposium taking from the Haystack website and there is also a monograph available.

‘The forty-seven participants for O Brave New World represented a wide range of fields including craft making, design, literature, music, science, and slow food. Presenters for the program included Wesley McNair, author of seven books of poetry, published books of essays, and three anthologies of Maine writing; Melissa Franklin, the Mallinkrodt Professor of Physics and Director of Graduate Studies, Harvard University; Dennie Palmer Wolf, former Senior Scholar at the Annenberg Institute at Brown University; D.Y. Begay, from the Navajo Nation, a weaver and a textile consultant; Edward Behr, publisher of the magazine The Art of Eating; Christina Bertoni, who teaches at The Rhode Island School of Design; and Robert Krulwich, correspondent for NPR’s Science Desk and co-host of WNYC’s Radio Lab.
Studio activities and leaders for this symposium included: Blacksmithing, led by David Secrest, artist, designer, and blacksmith; Ceramics, led by James Makins, a potter and Professor in the Crafts Department, University of the Arts, Philadelphia; Site Specific led by Diane Willow, a multi-modal artist and Assistant Professor in the Time and Interactivity Area at the University of Minnesota; and Textiles led by Piper Shepherd, studio artist and Professor in the Fiber Department at Maryland Institute College of Art.
Haystack will be publishing a monograph with essays from symposium presenters. Robert Krulwich was the final speaker for the program, summing up the week’s presentations and activities—below is an excerpt from his talk. …I also got the sense…that the folks who gathered here had a real feel for time passing, whether it was the colors of a desert sunset reflected in a gorgeous weaving by D.Y…or the wonderful amble of that chair, that mechanical chair invented by Arthur Ganson that waddled like a slightly drunk gentleman to the very edge of some precipice…You could almost hear the music in that chair…or time as measured in the shuffle of a snail in a bottle cap captured by Diane Willow’s weird microphone or the groans of a tree trunk catching the wind up above in its upper branches that somebody told me they heard with that mike… The point is people seemed to already know that time has beats and moves and colors and noises and time DESERVES attention… Haystack’s symposia are supported by an anonymous foundation. During O Brave New World, many hands contributed to the textiles project (led by Piper Shepard), which included hand cutting an intricate lace design into a long piece of gessoed muslin’.


I have added some of my images below of Piper’s workshop. We began the workshop by collecting flora and fauna from the Haystack environs which we put into slide mounts, we then transferred these onto a large piece of gessoed muslin, which we carefully drew onto, we spent some time joining the drawn elements together before beginning the cutting. What was great was that it was an incredibly focussed activity but done together it enabled us to talk and share ideas, laughter and complete immersion in the activity of cutting…in the end we laid the large stencil out on a table and used the technique of pouncing with graphite and cinnamon to transfer the image onto a paper surface.


DSCF6160DSCF6161DSCF6164DSCF6173DSCF6174DSCF6181DSCF6215DSCF6184DSCF6192DSCF6193DSCF6206DSCF6211DSCF6168Some of the group, including Piper Shepherd, Melissa Stern, Heidi Schwegler, Dan Estabrook, D Y Begay, Helen Carnac and Edward Behr.

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